Having a positive body image may lead to a happier life - study

Whether you live in a big city surrounded by people, or out in the country in solitude, your personal body image plays more into your mental health than previously understood.

 Woman taking photo while looking in mirror (illustrative) (photo credit: PEXELS)
Woman taking photo while looking in mirror (illustrative)
(photo credit: PEXELS)

Positive body image is just as much of a mental boost as it is physical. Those with a positive body image have better psychological wellbeing and general life satisfaction, according to data revealed by a new study.

The study, published in Body Image, sourced 56,968 participants across 65 different nations and revealed the correlation between mental and physical well-being.

Focused on the positives, the research was aimed at respecting the body and rejecting media ideas of what a "good body" should look like.

Research has shown that self-appreciation of the body is connected with several positive well-being traits such as high self-esteem and healthy eating habits. Without that positive aspect, negatively associated effects like depression and anxiety can be tied to a negative self-image.

This study is unique as it compared each effect of body appreciation across several cultures.

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) led a study that asked participants in 65 nations to complete the Body Appreciation Scale-2 (BAS-2), containing 10 items, including ‘I respect my body’ and ‘I appreciate the different and unique characteristics of my body’.  

The study found that across nations, greater body appreciation was significantly associated with higher psychological well-being, as assessed using a measure of life satisfaction. The researchers also found that body appreciation was higher in participants who were single (compared with being married or in a committed relationship) and those living in rural areas.

Which countries had the best and worst body image?

Some of the lowest scores were found in Australia, India, and the United Kingdom, while Malta scored the highest of them all.

Lead author of the study, Viren Swami, a professor of social psychology at ARU said, “This is one of the largest studies on body image ever carried out, brought about by a collaborative research effort involving over 250 scientists across the world. Our finding that greater body appreciation is associated with better psychological well-being highlights the importance of developing ways to promote more positive body image globally."

“Also, people who live in urban areas may feel stronger pressure to conform to body ideals promoted by Western society, and it is also notable that people from countries considered culturally different to the United States appeared to have broadly greater body appreciation.

Swami added, "People in rural areas may also benefit from being in nature, which past research has also shown to be linked with positive body image. This research also highlights what can be achieved when scientists from across the world come together to achieve a common goal.”